High Cost of Living in Zambia Leading Families to Undignified Lives: Jesuit Scholars

Credit: JCTR

Jesuit scholars in Zambia have said the high cost of living in the country has affected the ability of many families to live dignified lives. 

In their Monday, July 11 Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) statement outlining the cost of living for June 2022, officials of the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection (JCTR) say the average income of many Zambians remains far below the current cost of living yet the country’s cost of living has increased by K252.21 (US$15.36) since this year began.

“With poor incomes, households therefore struggle to meet basic needs of health, education, water, sanitation and food,” JCTR officials say in their statement shared with ACI Africa.

They add, “Our surveys have established that families are forced to adopt coping strategies such as reducing the number of meals, renting poor housing facilities, doing without essential drugs when sick and defaulting on education costs.”

“This negatively affects families’ abilities to live dignified lives and perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty,” officials of the Zambia-based Institute that is engaged in research, advocacy, education, and consultancy on social issues say.


The Jesuit scholars attribute the increased cost of living in the first half of 2022 to the late on-set of rains, increased fuel prices at the local and international levels, insatiable exchange rate, import ban on foods such as potatoes and onions, and the lifting of the temporal suspension of import duty on edible oils.

They add that the high cost of housing in Lusaka “significantly contributes” to the cost of living of the capital city’s dwellers. 

The Jesuit scholars offer some recommendations that can be applied to manage the economic situation.

To mitigate price increases that arise from importation bans, JCTR officials say the Ministry of Agriculture needs to “explore two pronged measures that will enable the balancing of imports and the need to boost local production using a multisectoral approach.”

“There is also need to address the quality, reliability and adequacy of local farmer supplies and also explore and strategize on how local producers will tap into markets beyond Zambia,” they say. 

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To address the seasonality challenge, the Jesuit scholars underscore the “need for specific policies that would reduce the cost of food production and facilitate all year round food production as well as spur economic growth and create the much needed jobs.”

Some of the interventions that the JCTR officials suggest include the scaling up of irrigation support (for various crops) to address dependence on rain fed agriculture and the reduction of the agricultural inputs.

“Overall, a development driven Agriculture Support Program will be critical in enabling the nation to actualize a robust, poverty eradication and development driven agriculture sector that will support the nation’s vision to be a prosperous middle-income nation by 2030,” they say.

For fuel prices, JCTR officials call upon the Zambian government to consider reintroducing suspension of import duties, which expired in December 2021, to ease the cost of production.

They urge the government to “consider reverting to 90-day pump price reviews to enable the nation to register some level of stability in fuel prices.”


For the high cost of living in Lusaka, JCTR officials say the government, through the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, needs to develop strategies that ensure affordable shelter. 

In the July 11 statement shared with ACI Africa, Jesuit scholars in Zambia say the impact of the high cost of living on the poor, vulnerable and marginalized persons “carries a moral imperative for the government to address the plight of these vulnerable groups.”

“JCTR calls on the government to seriously consider the preferential option for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized in policy formulation and implementation. Government must progressively stand in solidarity with these vulnerable groups and develop and ably implement pro-poor policies,” they say. 

Beyond the government, JCTR scholars urge those who are better off to stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalized Zambians. 

Such solidarity, they say, “can be done by providing as much support (charity as well as empowerment) to enable vulnerable households to cope with the cost of living.”

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Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.